BETTER TAX INFO COULD HELP FAMILIES PAY FOR COLLEGE

Washington, D.C. -- Students and their families do not always select tax breaks that could help them afford college tuition, possibly because tax filers are unaware of their eligibility for the tax credit or deduction, or are confused about their use, according to a government report.

The report, released in July by the Government Accountability Office, analyzed IRS data for 2009 tax returns with information on education expenses and found that approximately 14 percent of filers (or 1.5 million out of nearly 11 million eligible returns) failed to claim a credit or deduction for which they appear eligible. On average, these filers lost a tax benefit of $466.

The Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education have taken steps to provide information on these provisions, the GAO acknowledged, but the number of filers failing to claim a higher education tax provision suggests that more could be done.

"Higher education tax provisions should be transparent and understandable," the GAO concluded. "Students and families need sufficient and timely information on these provisions to ensure they are aware of their eligibility and understand how to claim the tax benefits."

 

ROTHSTEIN KASS EXPERTS OFFER GUIDE TO CAPITAL MARKETS

New York -- A pair of experts from Top 100 Firm Rothstein Kass have helped write a new book that offers an introductory guide to the capital markets.

The book, A Practical Guide to Capital Markets: Participants, Instruments and Compliance, published by Thomson Reuters Westlaw, was co-written by Joe Pacello, a financial services tax principal at the firm, and Richard Bloom, national leader of trusts and estates at Rothstein Kass, along with lead author Abe Mastbaum, tax and capital markets counsel at the law firm Barton LLP. The book is intended as an introductory-level guide for students, new employees at asset management companies and other financial institutions, and anyone interested in financial markets and instruments.

 

MOST COUPLES DISCUSS MONEY BEFORE MARRIAGE

Milwaukee -- Before saying, "I do," 78 percent of couples have discussed their personal finances, according to a new survey, in which Northwestern Mutual found that 53 percent of American couples say they have talked about their personal financial situations prior to getting engaged, while 25 percent had the conversation after their engagement but before the wedding.

In a poll on Northwestern Mutual's Facebook page, 1,003 respondents selected the point at which they discussed personal finances with their significant other. While the vast majority addressed personal finances before they were married, 12 percent waited until after marriage and 11 percent never had a formal conversation about financial planning, even after marriage.

Northwestern Mutual vice president of planning and sales Bill Taylor recommends that couples consider some key items to ensure financially healthy relationships:

• Should we combine assets or keep them separate?

• Should we maintain a joint or separate bank account?

• What are our joint financial goals?

• What if an illness or injury prevents one of us from working?

• What is our budget?

Taylor suggests that couples looking for additional guidance should consult a financial professional.

 

IRS NEEDS TO GET BETTER AT APPRAISING THE VALUE OF ART

Washington, D.C. -- The Internal Revenue Service's art appraisal experts are not subject to either a comprehensive quality review program or continuing education requirements specifically devoted to appraising art, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The report set out to examine appraised values not only of artwork, but also other property such as automobiles, businesses and real estate that often need to be appraised on tax returns. The GAO noted that the tax liabilities of individuals who make non-cash charitable donations or receive inheritances or gifts of property can depend significantly on the valuation of the property.

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